Chemical Safety Board violated Sunshine Act at Richmond meeting

Lawmakers seek federal probe into former Chemical Safety Board chairman
Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafel Moure-Eraso.

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) while under embattled former chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso violated the Sunshine Act at a Jan. 28 board meeting related to the Richmond Refinery fire of 2012, according to an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (IG).

The report, published Sept. 30, further reiterates the misconduct and lack of transparency that existed at CSB under Moure-Eraso, said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), who had called for the ex-chairman’s resignation.

“It is unacceptable for the federal agency charged with investigating chemical accidents to have violated the Sunshine Act,” DeSaulnier said in a statement Friday.

Starting in 2010, Moure-Eraso led the 40-person CSB in investigating industrial accidents and making safety recommendations. His tenure was spoiled by controversy, however, as he faced fire from both Democrats and Republicans over allegations of mismanagement, retaliation against whistleblowers, and of using private email accounts to conduct government business. He was forced to step down in March.

Much of the criticism dates back to CSB’s response to the Richmond Refinery fire of 2012, as this San Francisco Chronicle article discusses. At a meeting on Jan. 28, when the board was slated to possibly vote on the final report of CSB’s investigation into the fire, the board abruptly, and without prior public notice, passed a motion to terminate five investigations that had cost taxpayers more than $800,000, according to the recent IG report.

The surprise motion also consolidated Moure-Eraso’s authority over the agency and rescinded 18 of 46 board orders.

“By not announcing a motion that included terminating investigations, CSB kept the public uninformed of its planned actions to end the investigations, in violation of the Sunshine Act and the act’s transparency goals,” the IG report stated.

Following Moure-Eraso’s resignation, Vanessa Allen Sutherland was appointed Chair of CSB.

“Transparency is key to good governance,” DeSaulnier said. “While the CSB, under new leadership, says it plans to take corrective action to ensure future compliance, the agency must aggressively address the overall culture of distrust, ineptitude, and misconduct undermining the critical mission of the organization.”


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